Representation Matters--The CW’s Black Lightning to Premiere in January
During the summer, I completed an internship at Girls' Life Magazine in downtown Baltimore. Since I don't think they'll be using the article, to my knowledge, I decided to post it here. With the new CW show Black Lightning that features a Black/African American family whose head of household is a superhero, I decided to write about the representation of women and POC in Marvel TV shows that I've watched on ABC and/or Netflix.
In the last five years or so, Marvel and DC Comics have had an influx of superhero TV shows on major networks like ABC, Fox, The CW and their competitor Netflix. Within that time, they have shown characters of different abilities but with a common denominator: they were mostly white males, with the exception of people of color (POC) villains and side characters.
Until January 2015 when ABC introduced Agent Carter, a secret agent that was first shown to the world in Captain America: The First Avenger film. The show only lasted for two seasons due to audience ratings and network competition but was rated an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes because of its storyline and character dynamics. Agent Carter fought against new atomic threats after WWII.
Along came Daredevil in April 2015, and while the main character was a white male, he was also blind which gave a bit of contrast to other characters like Green Arrow and the Flash. The show was able to express that no matter what your disabilities/health complications are, you still can kick butt. Launching Daredevil meant that Marvel and Netflix were collaborating together to create The Defenders TV show, but storylines had to be set in place first. This included Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
Jessica Jones premiered in November 2015 and wasn’t your everyday-kind of hero. The show follows her after her time as a beloved superhero has come to an end, and with her superhuman strength, limited invulnerability, and flight, she still wants to help people. Compared to The CW’s Supergirl, Jessica Jones isn’t for the greater good, she’s mostly for herself. In her show, Jessica Jones meets Luke Cage (just like in the comics) and this hinted at his own TV show.
Luke Cage premiered in September 2016 and it had an all-Black and Latino main cast, which displeased some fans. The show followed Luke Cage after his “relationship” with Jessica Jones in the first season. Luke decides to hide out in Harlem to start a new life, but his past comes back to haunt him and he has to take matters into his own hands. The show contains flashbacks of how Luke got his abilities of superhuman strength and unbreakable skin from an experimental procedure. This man is bulletproof...literally. Luke Cage became the first black hero since Blade to have a show.
Growing up, superheroes only existed in cartoons because of failed TV show attempts from decades before. The only superheroes I could relate to at the time were Storm (from X-Men), Wonder Woman, and Static Shock. This didn’t include my love of strong female heroes and villains from Batman and the original Teen Titans. But for years, I didn’t see any “part” of me on TV.
Now, The CW has chosen to air Black Lightning, DC Comics’ first black superhero. The show will premiere on January 16, 2018. It follows a hero named Black Lightning that constantly fights against a local gang called the 100. He decides to go into retirement for his family and becomes the principal at a high school. But with the crime toll rising, he has to step out of retirement to get things under control. Some of Black Lightning’s abilities consist of throwing lightning bolts and even turn into lightning itself (if the show explores it more). His powers also run in the family, meaning if his daughters (the youngest one being played by Descendants 2’s China Anne McClain) decide to become heroes, then every villain they face should be scared of this dynamic family.
Photo Credit: Following the Nerd, International Business Times, Geek.com, NerdSpan, Variety